African journalists asked to report on consequences of unsafe abortion

African journalists have been asked to give a face and a voice to the upsurge of the consequences of unsafe abortion, to help save the lives of women, especially adolescents  aged 15-19.

“Women of all social standings terminate unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, but it is women who are young, rural or poor, who suffer long-term consequences from unsafe abortions due to their low socio-economic status.”   

Addressing journalists attending a regional workshop on “Advancing African Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights,” Dr Eduado Namburete, Senior Lecturer at the Eduado Mondlane University’s School of Communication and Arts, also said more African women and girls were dying from the complications of unsafe abortions, while countless others were left with injuries.

He noted that if 29,000 African women died annually of complications from unsafe abortion, then journalists should provide evidence, avoid emotional rhetorical myths and misconceptions, and educate them on the need to have safe abortions.  He explained that despite the alarming figures of unnecessary deaths of women on the continent, the reality was rarely featured in the media.

Lack of coverage and debate on this subject has also made the understanding of sexual and reproductive health and abortion in particular difficult, creating a long-lasting controversy over the issue. 

Globally, unsafe abortion constitutes 13 per cent of all maternal deaths, and it is the fourth largest cause of maternal deaths. However, in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to 40 per cent of maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions.

The workshop, organised by Ipas Africa Alliance for Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights, brought together 27 journalists from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia to  share advanced issues of addressing unsafe abortions in Africa.

It was also to strengthen skills on how to report on abortions during the upcoming policy moments at the global, regional and national levels.

Dr Namburete noted that by providing comprehensive, reliable and accurate information on unsafe abortions in Africa, and giving a voice to the voiceless, the media would have facilitated informed debate and critical assessment of actions taken by states.

“And by showing their readers and audience what is actually happening in the society, the media will be helping to subject the claims and actions of our various governments to public scrutiny and holding them accountable”.

Ms Brenda Muturi, the Policy Manager of Ipas Africa Alliance, who welcomed participants on behalf of the Vice-President of Ipas, Ambassador Dr Eunice Brookman-Amissah, noted that out of 29,000 African women and girls who died every single year from complications caused by unsafe abortions, Africa alone accounted for more than half the deaths from unsafe abortions.  

“We speak of maternal mortality, but don’t mention that up to 40 per cent of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions. This must change. Unsafe abortion and the resultant unnecessary loss of life need to become part of the maternal mortality conversation and fight,” she added. 

 Participants were taken through the magnitude of unsafe abortion in Africa, recent continental and international initiatives addressing unsafe abortion, abortion in the media in Africa, reporting effectively on unsafe abortion and the important role of journalists in advancing women’s reproductive health rights.  

Each participant received a certificate of participation. 

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